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The Journey of an Exchange Traded Fund: Becoming a Unicorn or Zombie

journal contribution
posted on 2023-09-21, 07:43 authored by Bingqiao LiBingqiao Li, Fei- (Phoebe) GaoFei- (Phoebe) Gao

The authors examine the factors that impact the growth of exchange traded funds (ETFs) from 1990 to 2020. The authors show the first-mover and winner-takes-all effects from top ETF issuers. Besides the longer history and larger asset under management (AUM), the ETFs being managed by top issuers have exhibited lower risks and higher trading volume. Delisted ETFs on the contrary has a shorter history, lower AUM, higher risks, and lower trading volume. For zombie ETFs, the authors find longer history, lower risks but lower AUM and trading volume, controlled for total expense ratio, return, volatility, Amihud (2002) illiquidity, bid-ask spread, turnover ratio, as well as year, issuer, asset class and region fixed effects. The authors further study the ETFs’ AUM and trading activities over the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and COVID-19 pandemic crisis, and find that the GFC has a significant negative impact while the COVID-19 has a positive impact on the ETFs’ popularity. The significant increase in AUM of ETF relative to common stocks during the COVID-19 is associated with retail investors’ holdings, as the authors document a significant reduction of institutional holdings at the aggregate level.


Journal/Conference/Book title

Fintech, Pandemic, and the Financial System: Challenges and Opportunities (International Finance Review, Vol. 22), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 243-272.

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